It’s long been observed that many creatures for some reason steer clear of power lines, even though the cables don’t pose serious physical barriers.
But by using UV-sensitive cameras aboard a helicopter, researchers from University College London captured seemingly magical balls of light bursting to life briefly along the power lines.
While UV light is invisible to humans, dozens of mammals have been found to be able to see it, including cattle, cats, dogs, rats, bats and hedgehogs.
The scientists say the flashes, or coronas, would appear far brighter to many animals that see the entire UV spectrum rather than the limited part captured by UV-sensitive camera images.
The flashes are caused by electricity ionizing around the cables and towers. They are a major cause of power loss during transmission over long distances, experts say.
“The flashes occur at random in time and space, so the power lines are not grey and passive, but seen as lines of light flashing,” said team researcher Nicolas Tyler.
He added that the findings may encourage power companies to negotiate with herders about where they place the transmission lines.
Video: PDG Helicopters